What is Ganesh Chaturthi?
Ganesh Chaturthi also called Vinayak Chauth is a Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Ganesh. Lord Ganesh is known by 108 different names and is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the lord of wisdom and a symbol of prosperity.
How is Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated?
This 10-day festival marking the birth of Lord Ganesh is celebrated across India with pomp and aplomb. The festivities commence on the fourth day following the arrival of a new moon in the month of Bhadrapada. Close to a billion people celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi as one of the biggest religious events in India. The rituals start with Pranapratishhtha by which the deity is invoked into a murti or idol. The idols are brought home and installed in elaborate podiums by communities across the country. The Shhodashopachara rituals include 16 forms of paying tribute to Ganesha, these prayers are offered over 11 days. Following the Uttarpuja on the last day Anant Chaturdashi, the statues are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then immersed in the nearest water body.
What are the environmental impacts of the festival?
- Non-dissolvable materials used: The idols are generally crafted using plaster-of-paris, clay, plastic and cement containing substances such as calcium sulfate hemihydrate which do not dissolve completely. This pollutes water bodies.
- Rise in toxicity: The use of non-organic paints made of lead and mercury considerably affects aquatic life. These substances not only reduce the oxygen levels in the water but can also poison our water sources for several years.
- Increased solid waste: The idols are usually bedecked with decorations, plastic flowers, clothes, lights and more before being immersed. This careless dumping adds to pollution. This accumulation of waste can also lead to the breeding of mosquitoes and other vermin that can cause several diseases.
- Increased electricity consumption: Most podiums and pandals make use of excessive light and huge sound systems that consume excess energy while contributing to light and sound pollution.
- Use of public water bodies: Water bodies such as rivers are home to various aquatic life, irrigate our lands and are the primary water source for huge populations. Polluting these water bodies can lead to long term environmental effects and harm those who use the water.
Considering the environmental impacts, it is our core responsibility to make sure our festivities do not harm the environment. A few steps are all it takes to celebrate our favourite god while reducing environmental strain
10 ways to celebrate an eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi in your housing society:
- Eco-friendly Ganesh Idols
There is a choice of eco-friendly idols available today like ones made of alum that quickly dissolves in water and purifies water, ones made of red soil and fertilizers and containing plant seeds that can be placed in an accompanying pot and watered until it dissolves, ones made of chocolate that can be immersed in milk and more. Most states have banned the use of plaster-of-paris idols. The management committee should ensure that idols made of plastic, thermocol and other hazardous materials are not permitted. The society should collectively advocate idols made of biodegradable material like unbaked clay, coconut or soil.
- Eco-friendly Ganpati Decoration
Materials like thermocol, plastic, fibres, plaster-of-paris etc. should not be used for decoration due to their non-biodegradable nature. Use of materials like paper, wood, cloth, organic colors etc., should be encouraged when decorating the society pandals and idols.
- Sensible disposal techniques
(i) Make sure flower garlands, cloth and other decorative material are removed before immersion of idols.
(ii) Clothes & food items like coconut, fruits etc. should be donated and not wasted.
(iii) A society compost pit should be made wherein all the biodegradable items – including flowers used for decoration etc. can be disposed of. The eventual compost can be used within society gardens.
- Restrict music to avoid noise pollution
Avoid or minimize the use of loudspeakers as it causes noise pollution. Studies suggest loud sound can impair hearing abilities of infants. Additionally, animals both domesticated and strays are adversely affected by the loud noise.
- Energy Conservation.
While lighting up the community pandals use energy-efficient lighting fixtures like LED diyas or traditional earthen lamps. Make sure that excessive lights are not used, which can lead to waste and light pollution.
- Temporary immersion tanks
Instead of immersing the idols in public water bodies, temporary immersion tanks can be set up in the community. All the society members can come together and make use of this immersion tank for visarjan. This prevents the pollution of public water bodies while keeping the roads traffic-free.
- Chemical free rangoli colors
Encourage the use of natural colors for rangoli and for idol decoration.
- Use of biodegradable plates and cups
Limit or ban the use of plastic disposables. The community can opt to use Pattals made of plants, trees or biodegradable plates for prasad distribution. When organising the festivities in the community, the committee could alternatively arrange for a potluck and make arrangements to donate the leftovers to the needy.
- Limit the size of Ganesh idols
Ganesh idols should be limited to no more than 5 feet high. Idols larger than this use a considerable amount of resources and cannot be immersed fully.
- Raise awareness on eco-friendly practices
The management committee should take initiatives to educate the residents about the festival, its significance and the importance of adopting eco-friendly practices.
While honouring our traditions, it is important to do our bit to not disturb the ecological balance. With strong initiatives from the management committee and the co-operation of the residents, you can do your bit to celebrate an eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi.